Hadith of Muhammad's inheritance

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Muhammad's inheritance is a well-documented and controversial topic, both then and at the present.


Muhammad's inheritance did not occur as is prescribed in the Qur'an, since Abu Bakr, one of Muhammad's most prominent companions said that he heard Muhammad said so. This happened during the Succession to Muhammad, the day after the meeting at Saqifah.

Controversially, several of Muhammad's relatives were not convinced of his testimony, and this resulted in a dispute that continued all the way to the era of Umar II, around one hundred years later.

People involved in the event include:

The present interpretation of the sources describing the event is also controversial. Shi'a and Sunni do not agree on whether a piece of property named Fadak that was included in conflict between Fatimah and Abu Bakr only constituted inheritance, or if it actually was confiscated by Abu Bakr, and Fatimah demanded it back together with her inheritance.


The events started the day after the death of Muhammad on AH 10 (631/632). Fatimah came with Ali to Abu Bakr.[1]

Ibn Sa'd, a 9th century Sunni Islamic scholar writes:

Fatimah came to Abu Bakr and demanded her share in the inheritance. Al-Abbas came to him and demanded his share in the inheritance. Ali came with them. Thereupon Abu Bakr said, "The Apostle of God said, "We leave no inheritance, what we leave behind us is sadaqah." I shall make provisions for those for whom the Prophet had made." [2]

On this Ali said, "Sulayman (Solomon) inherited Dawud (David),[Quran 27:16] and Zakariya said, ‘He may be my heir and the heir of the children of Jacob (Zachariah about John the Baptist)’"[Quran 19:6].

Abu Bakr said, "This is as this is. By God! You know it as I know."

Thereupon Ali said, "This is the Book of God that speaks." Then they became quiet and retired.[1]

Fatimah asked Abu Bakr, "When you die who will inherit you?"

He replied, "My children and relatives."

She said, "What is the justification of your becoming inheritor of the Prophet keeping us away?"

He replied, "O daughter of the Apostle of God! I did not inherit your father’s land, gold, silver, slave, or property."

She said, "The share of God (Khums i.e. one-fifth) which He has allotted to us and which is only our share, is in your hands."

Thereupon he replied, "I heard the Apostle of God saying, 'It is the food that God makes me eat. When I die it will be distributed among the Muslims'"

• • •

Abu Bakr said, "Verily, the Apostle of God said, 'We do not leave inheritance, what we leave goes into sadaqah.' Verily, the members of Muhammad’s family will get provision from this money. By God! I shall not change the distribution of the sadaqah of the Apostle of God from what it was in the time of Apostle of God. I shall continue to spend them under the same heads as the Apostle of God was spending."

So Abu Bakr refused to give any thing to Fatimah. Consequently Fatimah became angry with Abu Bakr and left him. She did not talk with him until she died. She lived six months after the Apostle of God.[3][4]

Muhammad ibn Jarir al-Tabari, a 10th century Sunni Islamic scholar writes:

Fatimah and al-Abbas came to Abu Bakr demanding their share of inheritance of the Messenger of God. They were demanding the Messenger of God’s land in Fadak and his share of Khaybar’s tribute. Abu Bakr replied, “I have heard the Messenger of God say, “Our, i.e. the prophets’ property cannot be inherited and whatever we leave behind is alms to be given in charity. The family of Muhammad will eat from it. (1)[5] By God, I will not abandon a course which I saw the Messenger of God practicing, but will continue it accordingly. Fatimah shunned him and did not speak to him about it until she died. Ali buried her at night and did not permit Abu Bakr to attend her burial. While Fatimah was alive, Ali held respect among the people. After she died their attention turned away from him. A man asked al-Zuhri, “Did Ali not give his oath of allegiance for six months?” “No, nor anyone of the Banu Hashim until Ali rendered his,” he replied.[6]

A narration attributed to A'isha reports:

When the Messenger of God died, his wives made up their minds to send Uthman ibn Affan (as their spokesman) to Abu Bakr to demand from him their share from the legacy of the Holy Prophet. (At this), Aisha said to them: Hasn't the Messenger of God said: "We (Prophets) do not have any heirs; what we leave behind is (to be given in) charity"?

Sunnis tend to view this as Sahih and have included it in Sahih Muslim[7]

Abu Bakr died two years, on AH 13 (634/635), and at that point, the demands for the inheritance were renewed to Umar, who became the second Sunni Caliph.

A narration attributed to Ibn Shihab al-Zuhri from Malik ibn Aus reports:

Umar b. al-Khattab sent for me and I came to him when the day had advanced. I found him in his house sitting on his bare bed-stead, reclining on a leather pillow. He said (to me): Malik, some people of your tribe have hastened to me (with a request for help). I have ordered a little money for them. Take it and distribute it among them. I said: I wish you had ordered somebody else to do this job. He said: Malik, take it (and do what you have been told). At this moment (his man-servant) Yarfa' came in and said: Commander of the Faithful, what do you say about Uthman, Abd al-Rabman b. 'Auf, Zubair and Sa'd (who have come to seek an audience with you)? He said: Yes, and permitted them. so they entered. Then he (Yarfa') came again and said: What do you say about 'Ali and Abbas (who are present at the door)? He said: Yes, and permitted them to enter. Abbas said: Commander of the Faithful, decide (the dispute) between me and this sinful, treacherous, dishonest liar. The people (who were present) also said: Yes. Commander of the Faithful, do decide (the dispute) and have mercy on them. Malik b. Aus said: I could well imagine that they had sent them in advance for this purpose (by 'Ali and Abbas). 'Umar said: Wait and be patient. I adjure you by Allah by Whose order the heavens and the earth are sustained, don't you know that the Messenger of Allah said:" We (prophets) do not have any heirs; what we leave behind is (to be given in) charity"? They said: Yes. Then he turned to Abbas and 'Ali and said: I adjure you both by Allah by Whose order the heavens and earth are sustained, don't you know that the Messenger of Allah said:" We do not have any heirs; what we leave behind is (to be given in) charity"? They (too) said: Yes. (Then) Umar said: Allah, the Glorious and Exalted, had done to His Messenger a special favour that He has not done to anyone else except him. He quoted the Qur'anic verse:" What Allah has bestowed upon His Apostle from (the properties) of the people of township is for Allah and His Messenger". The narrator said: I do not know whether he also recited the previous verse or not. Umar continued: The Messenger of Allah distributed among you the properties abandoned by Banu Nadir. By Allah, he never preferred himself over you and never appropriated anything to your exclusion. (After a fair distribution in this way) this property was left over.

The Messenger of Allah would meet from its income his annual expenditure, and what remained would be deposited in the Bait-ul-Mal. (Continuing further) he said: I adjure you by Allah by Whose order the heavens and the earth are sustained. Do you know this? They said: Yes. Then he adjured Abbas and 'All as he had adjured the other persons and asked: Do you both know this? They said: Yes. He said: When the Messenger of Allah died, Abu Bakr said:" I am the successor of the Messenger of Allah." Both of you came to demand your shares from the property (left behind by the Messenger of Allah). (Referring to Hadrat 'Abbas), he said: You demanded your share from the property of your nephew, and he (referring to 'Ali) demanded a share on behalf of his wife from the property of her father. Abu Bakr (Allah be pleased with him) said: The Messenger of Allah had said:" We do not have any heirs; what we leave behind is (to be given in) charity." So both of you thought him to be a liar, sinful, treacherous and dishonest. And Allah knows that he was true, virtuous, well-guided and a follower of truth. When Abu Bakr died and (I have become) the successor of the Messenger of Allah and Abu Bakr (Allah be pleased with him), you thought me to be a liar, sinful, treacherous and dishonest. And Allah knows that I am true, virtuous, well-guided and a follower of truth. I became the guardian of this property. Then you as well as he came to me. Both of you have come and your purpose is identical. You said: Entrust the property to us. I said: If you wish that I should entrust it to you, it will be on the condition that both of you will undertake to abide by a pledge made with Allah that you will use it in the same way as the Messenger of Allah used it. So both of you got it. He said: Wasn't it like this? They said: Yes. He said: Then you have (again) come to me with the request that I should adjudge between you. No, by Allah. I will not give any other judgment except this until the arrival of the Doomsday. If you are unable to hold the property on this condition, return it to me.

Sunnis tend to view this as Sahih and have included it in Sahih Muslim[8]

A narration attributed to Urwah ibn Zubayr from Aisha reports:

... So far as the charitable endowments at Medina were concerned, 'Umar handed them over to 'Ali and Abbas, but 'Ali got the better of him (and kept the property under his exclusive possession). And as far as Khaibar and Fadak were concerned 'Umar kept them with him, and said: These are the endowments of the Messenger of Allah (to the Umma). Their income was spent on the discharge of the responsibilities that devolved upon him on the emergencies he had to meet. And their management was to be in the hands of one who managed the affairs (of the Islamic State). The narrator said: They have been managed as such up to this day.

Sunnis tend to view this as Sahih and have included it in Sahih Muslim[3]


Shia views[edit]

Shia view this conflict as one of their primary evidence of the injustice done against Muhammad's household (Arabic: Ahl al-Bayt), and have written extensively on this issue.[9][10][11][12][13][14] Shia consider that Abu Bakr simply gave false testimony when he claimed that Muhammad said he would not give inheritance.

Shia also state that Abu Bakr's seizure of Ali and Fatimah's inheritance was complemented by the unjust seizure of the land of Fadak, a gift given to Fatimah during Muhammad's life.

Shia Muslims do not view this Hadith as authentic. As Sayed Ali Asgher Razwy notes in his book A Restatement of the History of Islam & Muslims, Prophet Muhammad inherited a maid servant, five camels, and ten sheep. This proves that Prophets can receive inheritance, and can pass on inheritance to others as well.[15]

This issue is a hot topic among Shia, and they dedicate long articles to this subject.[16]

Sunni view[edit]

Sunni view this conflict between Abu Bakr and Fatimah as unfortunate and are prone to view it as a disagreement with limited consequences.


  1. ^ a b The Book of the Major Classes, Volume 2, page 393
  2. ^ The hadith has been reproduced through Abu Hurairah in Sahih Muslim, 19:4355, 19:4356, 19:4357
  3. ^ a b Sahih Muslim, 19:4354
  4. ^ The Book of the Major Classes, Volume 2, page 392
  5. ^ Note 1 states: “It was the first and most important step taken by both Abu Bakr and Umar in their attempts to displace the Banu Hashim and especially Ali from their prerogatives in the leadership of the Muslim polity. Acceptance of this claim of inheritance based on family ties would have opened the door widely to Ali’s right to the succession. Moreover, the income from both these sources was considerable, and it would have given some leverage to Ali.
  6. ^ History of the Prophets and Kings, Volume 9, pages 196, 197. State University of New York Press, 1993. Translated by Ismail K. Poonawala
  7. ^ Sahih Muslim, 19:4351
  8. ^ Sahih Muslim, 19:4349, 19:4350
  9. ^ The Shi'a encyclopedia at al-Islam.org: [1] [2] [3]
  10. ^ Al-Marji' Sayyid Muhammad Husayn Fadlullah, Fatimah al-Ma`sumah (as): a role model for men and women, section "Angry for the truth" at Al-Islam.org: http://al-islam1.org/fatimahrolemodel/5.htm
  11. ^ Peshawar Nights at Al-Islam.org: http://www.al-islam.org/peshawar/8.6.html and 8.10
  12. ^ Ayatullah Ja'far Subhani, The Message at Al-Islam.org: http://www.al-islam.org/message/45.htm
  13. ^ Fatima the Gracious by Abu Muhammad Ordoni at Al-islam.org: http://www.al-islam.org/gracious/49.htm
  14. ^ A Restatement of the History of Islam and Muslims by Ali Asgher Razwy at Al-Islam.org: http://www.al-islam.org/restatement/55.htm
  15. ^ Razwy, Ali Asgher. A Restatement of the History of Islam & Muslims. pp. 34–35. |access-date= requires |url= (help)
  16. ^ Fadak; The property of Fatima al-Zahra at answering-ansar.org